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Scheer’s Conservative caucus support gives him the advantage, but leadership win not in the bag

The election ushered in what is certain to be a period of uncertainty and discord unseen in Canada for years.
It's on: Conservative leadership candidates including Andrew Scheer, centre, at an unofficial debate hosted by MP Pierre Poilievre in his Ottawa-area riding Carleton, Ont., on Nov. 13, 2016. The Hill Times photograph by Jake Wright
By Chelsea Nash      

PARLIAMENT HILL—Conservative MP and leadership candidate Andrew Scheer may have the most endorsements from his caucus colleagues on the Hill, but that doesn’t mean he’s got the leadership in the bag.

The member for Regina-Qu’Appelle, Sask. has 19 endorsements, according to his website, followed by MP Erin O’Toole (Durham, Ont.) with the backing of 14 MPs.

Both of the candidates have sent out emails to Conservative members flouting their lengthy endorsement lists, and feature an “endorsements” tab on their websites. Others with less endorsements aren’t so vocal about it.

Despite their support from those they work with, former Canadian Alliance leader Stockwell Day told The Hill Times that “anybody would like to say I have ‘x’ number of MPs on my team,” adding that “any support you can publicize is positive.” But, “tradition” shows caucus endorsements are not always reliable measures of success. 

During his own successful run for the leadership in 2000, Mr. Day did not have the most endorsements in the race. Two of his opponents who dropped out in the third round of ballots even endorsed his rival at the last minute. But, he still won handily with 63 per cent of the vote.

“Any group can become insulated,” he said, clarifying that wasn’t necessarily the case with the current Conservative caucus. “If an internal group is going for one candidate, you should also assess how acutely they have the pulse of the larger voting group.”

He said gaining a lot of support from caucus colleagues comes with a certain risk. “Sometimes if you’ve got a lot of caucus support, you may automatically assume that means you’ve got the support of the broader membership, and that may not be the case. A candidate can be lulled into thinking, ‘I’m doing well here,’” Mr. Day said.

Mr. Scheer, who leads the race in endorsements, said he continues to keep his attention on the grassroots. He told The Hill Times that he has so much support from caucus because, “those that know me the most support me the most.” But, he acknowledged that only 99 of 338 ridings were won by Conservatives in the last election.

“Obviously I can’t just look at a third of the ridings who will be voting,” he said.

Conservative MP Tony Clement (Parry Sound-Muskoka, Ont.), who was the first to drop out of the running for the leadership and has since endorsed Conservative MP Maxime Bernier (Beauce, Que.), said it’s important for candidates to have a few endorsements for the purpose of credibility, but that past a certain threshold, it would matter less and less. Mr. Bernier currently holds endorsements from five sitting Conservative MPs.

Mr. Clement, too, pointed to precedent, citing Patrick Brown’s win of the leadership of the Ontario Progressive Conservatives against Christine Elliott, who at the time held the majority of endorsements and caucus support.

“After the leadership, all of those people who either endorsed Christine or somebody else are now part of his caucus and they’re all rolling in the same direction. That’s what you’ve got to do if you’re going to be a winning team,” he said.

So far in the race, Mr. Clement said he didn’t see any division “that isn’t healable once the leadership campaign is over.”

Having endorsements has its practical advantages as well, said Mr. Day.

“One of the advantages of having caucus support is you can use other members as surrogates to pound on your opponents. That’s what happens in every race, in every party, so you may see some of that regarding [Kellie] Leitch,” he said.

MP Kellie Leitch (Simcoe-Grey, Ont.) has been criticized by many of her colleagues for her policy proposal to screen all immigrants for “Canadian values.” Ms. Leitch herself has compared herself to U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, and her colleagues and fellow candidates are condemning her for it.

Conservatives get gritty

Just more than a week into 2017, the 13 remaining candidates in the Conservative leadership race are starting to get their elbows up.

Last Wednesday, Conservative MP Lisa Raitt (Milton, Ont.) and leadership candidate, was on the offence as she launched her website, stopkevinoleary.com. In the press conference she held on Wednesday morning to unveil the new site, she spoke out against the “divisive populism” of Canadian businessman and TV personality Kevin O’Leary and Ms. Leitch.

Mr. O’Leary has not yet officially jumped into the crowded race, though he has a “Draft Kevin O’Leary” website, and has long said he is exploring the idea.

Asked if the name-calling might cause tension in caucus, Mr. Clement said, “We’re getting into a new phase in the race, and people are going to be making distinctions,” Mr. Clement said. “As long as they’re making distinctions over policy. I don’t think it has a lasting impact. I don’t think it would be wise for any candidate to engage in an overtly personal attack that isn’t based on a policy difference.”

Other candidates in the race had their own reaction to the mudslinging, including Mr. Bernier, who released an email the following day, saying he “would welcome Kevin O’Leary to the race,” but if he “wants to have the slightest chance at beating me, he needs to get in now.”

What drives an endorsement

Conservative MP Karen Vecchio (Elgin-Middlesex-London, Ont.), who endorsed Mr. O’Toole for leader, said the main factor for her was the values they shared.

“I look at him, I look at his family, I look at my family, we have a lot of things in common,” she said. “Teamwork is non-negotiable. One of the first things he did was sit down with every single new MP. If there’s a concern, he’s listening.”

She also said that for her, endorsing a candidate who she felt would best represent the views of her own constituents in the long run was an important factor.

Mr. Day said there are a number of factors contributing to Mr. Scheer being the frontrunner in terms of endorsements.  

“A lot of caucus members know him, they’ve seen him. In their mind, there’s not a question about what type of individual he is. There’s a sense of confidence because…they’ve seen him work, [and] a lot of them would have shared values. So it’s that sense of closeness that gives them confidence that they know the guy,” he said.  

Mr. Clement said everyone in caucus is making their own “individual assessments.” He said he’s had frank conversations with colleagues who are interested in his own decision making process, particularly given Mr. Clement is a long-time MP, and the Conservative caucus has several rookies.

The meaning behind a given MPs endorsement might vary, as well, depending on their own level of influence.

Mr. Clement, a former Harper-era cabinet minister who has been involved with the party since 1998, said when he endorses someone, “it matters not only just to my constituency, but I have a whole breadth of supporters and people who have been interested in my political path for a number of years.”

“It means different things based on your level of intensity in politics, your experiences in politics, and so on. After a certain point however, people are going to make up with own minds.”

The election of the next Conservative leader will take place on May 27 of this year, by way of a ranked ballot voting system.


Conservative Leadership Race: Who’s Supporting Who


Chris Alexander

Alexandra Day former Conservative staffer

Paul Egli former Conservative nomination candidate


Maxime Bernier

Dan Albas Conservative MP

Tony Clement Conservative MP

Jacques Gourde Conservative MP

Tom Kmiec Conservative MP

Alex Nuttall Conservative MP

Lynn Beyak Conservative Senator

Nicole Eaton Conservative Senator

Stephen Greene Conservative Senator

Laura Ross Saskatchewan Party MLA

Ryan Leef former Conservative MP 

Gary Lunn former Conservative minister

Pat Perkins former Conservative MP

John Reynolds former Conservative MP and B.C. MLA

Brian Storseth former Conservative MP

Lawrence Toet former Conservative MP

George Richardson former Canadian Alliance party president

Matt Whitman deputy mayor of Halifax

Phil Green former Conservative candidate

Adam Richardson former Canadian Alliance candidate and staffer

Robert Strickland former Conservative candidate

Steven Barrett former Conservative staffer

Aaron Gairdner former Conservative staffer

Emrys Graefe deputy director for the Conservative Party’s 2015 campaign

Maxime Hupé former Hill staffer

Mark Johnson former Conservative staffer

Tony Oliver former vice president of the Progressive Conservative Party of Newfoundland

Mark Whiffen past president of the Progressive Conservative Party of Newfoundland and Labrador

Steven Blaney

Jean-Guy Dagenais Conservative Senator

Pierre-Luc Jean former Conservative staffer

Christophe Lavoie Hill staffer

Michael Chong

Peter Kent Conservative MP

David Tilson Conservative MP

Mike Wallace former Conservative MP

Terence Young former Conservative MP

Erminie Cohen former Progressive Conservative Senator

Ted Arnott Ontario Progressive Conservative MPP

Nathan Caranci Conservative staffer

Catherine Keill former staffer to then-Alberta Progressive Conservative premier Jim Prentice and former Progressive Conservative MPs

Chisholm Pothier former Conservative staffer

Bram Sepers former Conservative staffer

Adam Taylor former Conservative staffer

Peter White former principal secretary to Progressive Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney

Kellie Leitch

Ben Lobb Conservative MP

Peter Van Loan Conservative MP

David Yurdiga Conservative MP

Consiglio Di Nino former Conservative Senator

Ronald Atkey former Progressive Conservative minister

David Artemiw former Progressive Conservative Queen’s Park staffer

Richard Ciano principal at Campaign Research, former Ontario Progressive Conservative party president

Michael Diamond director of operations for ex-Toronto mayor Rob Ford, Manitoba Progressive Conservative caucus staffer

Tannis Drysdale former northern VP for the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party

Jan Dymond former political staffer

Stephanie Gawur constituency assistant

Sander Grieve former Progressive Conservative Hill staffer

Stanley Hartt former chief of staff to prime minister Brian Mulroney

Nick Kouvalis former chief of staff to Toronto mayor Rob Ford, principal at Campaign Research

Dany Renauld former federal Progressive Conservative Party organizer in Quebec

John Simcoe chief financial officer, Ontario PC Fund

Mitch Wexler voter-data expert and a principal at Politrain Consulting


Pierre Lemieux


Deepak Obhrai

Corneliu Chisu former Conservative MP

Joe Daniel former Conservative MP

Julian Fantino former Conservative MP


Erin O’Toole

James Bezan Conservative MP

John Brassard Conservative MP

Colin Carrie Conservative MP

Michael Cooper Conservative MP

Todd Doherty Conservative MP

Randy Hoback Conservative MP

Ron Liepert Conservative MP

Larry Maguire Conservative MP

Cathy McLeod Conservative MP

Blake Richards Conservative MP

Jamie Schmale Conservative MP

Robert Sopuck Conservative MP

Karen Vecchio Conservative MP

Kevin Waugh Conservative MP

Laurie Hawn former Conservative MP

Ed Holder former Conservative MP 

Gerald Keddy former Conservative MP

Wladyslaw Lizon former Conservative MP

Ted Opitz former Conservative MP

Bernard Trottier former Conservative MP

David Wilks former Conservative MP

Michael Harris Ontario MPP

Brian Macdonald New Brunswick Progressive Conservative MLA

Jody Mitic Ottawa city councillor

Fred DeLorey former Conservative candidate and staffer

James Dodds former chief financial officer for the federal Progressive Conservative Party

John MacDonell former Conservative chief of staff

Dan Mader former Conservative chief of staff

Tausha Michaud Hill staffer

Dave Pierce former Conservative staffer

Rick Peterson

Jeff Bridge 2013 campaign manager for the B.C. Conservatives

Mark Mullins former adviser to federal and Ontario PCs, former Fraser Institute director

Lisa Raitt

Dean Allison Conservative MP

Phil McColeman Conservative MP

Bruce Stanton Conservative MP

Judith Seidman Conservative Senator

Keith Ashfield former Conservative minister

John Carmichael former Conservative MP

Rob Clarke former Conservative MP

Kerry-Lynne Findlay former Conservative minister

Robert Goguen former Conservative MP

Gary Goodyear former Conservative minister of state

Alfie MacLeod Nova Scotia PC MLA

Lisa MacLeod Ontario Progressive Conservative MPP

Cecil Clarke mayor of Cape Breton Regional Municipality, former Conservative candidate

Gordon Krantz mayor of Milton, Ont.

Michel A. Plourde mayor of Danville, Que.

Case Ootes former deputy mayor of Toronto

Adam Rodgers former Conservative Party candidate

Jana Regimbal former Conservative staffer

Brooke Timpson former Conservative staffer

Andrew Saxton

John Duncan former Conservative MP

Noël Kinsella former Senate speaker and Conservative Senator

Brock Stephenson former Conservative staffer

Andrew Scheer

Ziad Aboultaif Conservative MP

John Barlow Conservative MP

Kelly Block Conservative MP

Jim Eglinski Conservative MP

Ted Falk Conservative MP

Garnett Genuis Conservative MP

Marilyn Gladu Conservative MP

Matt Jeneroux Conservative MP

Tom Lukiwski Conservative MP

Kelly McCauley Conservative MP

Scott Reid Conservative MP

Gerry Ritz Conservative MP

Kevin Sorenson Conservative MP

Mark Strahl Conservative MP

Shannon Stubbs Conservative MP

Arnold Viersen Conservative MP

Cathay Wagantall Conservative MP

Mark Warawa Conservative MP

Chris Warkentin Conservative MP

Bob Zimmer Conservative MP

Denise Batters Conservative Senator

Norman Doyle Conservative Senator

Dennis Patterson Conservative Senator

Don Plett Conservative Senator

David Tkachuk Conservative Senator

David Wells Conservative Senator

Paul Calandra former Conservative MP

LaVar Payne former Conservative MP

Peter Penashue former Conservative minister

Kyle Seeback former Conservative MP

Devinder Shory former Conservative MP

Jeff Watson former Conservative MP

Steven Bonk Saskatchewan MLA

Bill Boyd Saskatchewan MLA 

Fred Bradshaw Saskatchewan MLA 

Greg Brkich Saskatchewan MLA 

Jennifer Campeau Saskatchewan MLA 

Lori Carr Saskatchewan MLA 

Herb Cox Saskatchewan MLA 

Dan D’Autremont Saskatchewan MLA 

Terry Dennis Saskatchewan MLA

Larry Doke Saskatchewan MLA 

Jeremy Harrison Saskatchewan MLA 

Warren Kaeding Saskatchewan MLA 

Greg Lawrence Saskatchewan MLA 

Hugh Nerlien Saskatchewan MLA 

Greg Ottenbreit Saskatchewan MLA 

Kevin Phillips Saskatchewan MLA 

Doug Steele Saskatchewan MLA 

Warren Steinley Saskatchewan MLA 

Lyle Stewart Saskatchewan MLA 

Christine Tell Saskatchewan MLA 

Jeff Carr New Brunswick Progressive Conservative MLA

Carl Urquhart New Brunswick Progressive Conservative MLA

Georganne Burke former Conservative Party outreach manager and organizer

Marc-André Leclerc former Conservative Party staffer

Hamish Marshall former Conservative PMO and party staffer

Brad Trost

Joseph Ben-Ami former operations director to Canadian Alliance leader Stockwell Day

Mike Patton former Conservative staffer


Sources: Media reports, The Hill Times archives, candidate/supporter communications

Note: This list is limited to former and current political staffers, elected politicians, and candidates

Compiled by Kristen Shane and Abbas Rana

The Hill Times 

This story has been updated to reflect the fact that MP Erin O’Toole has endorsements from 14 current MPs, not 13, as previously reported. 

*Editor’s note: A previous version of this story incorrectly listed Guy Giorno, a former PMO chief of staff, as an endorser of Andrew Scheer.

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